Originally posted on Fox Sports North  |  Last updated 7/12/12
MINNEAPOLIS The characters may be different, but the script looks similar. A year ago, the Minnesota Twins entered the All-Star break seven games under .500 and in fourth place in the American League Central, 6 games out of first place. One year later, Minnesota is in an even deeper hole at the break dead last in the American League Central at 36-49, 11 games behind first-place Chicago. There was no Hollywood ending for the injury-plagued Twins in 2011, as they finished fifth in the division for the first time since 2000. Can Minnesota flip the script in the second half of 2012 and avoid another last-place finish?If the Twins are to get on track after the break, it will begin with solidifying the starting pitching. At the break, Minnesota's starters combined for the worst ERA in the American League (5.68) and second-worst in all of baseball behind Colorado's rotation (6.11). The lone bright spot in the rotation during the first half was left-hander Scott Diamond, who emerged after being called up from Triple-A Rochester at the beginning of May. Can Diamond continue to put up similar numbers (7-3, 2.62 ERA in 12 starts) that he did in the first half?Minnesota will need other arms to help Diamond out in the rotation. Left-hander Francisco Liriano has pitched well since his demotion to the bullpen and subsequent promotion back to the rotation. But Liriano could be trade bait in the second half of the season, especially if he continues to take steps in the right direction. He'll open the second half by starting Friday's game against Oakland at Target Field. There's a good chance several scouts could be on hand to see if the 28-year-old left-hander can sustain the success he had right before the break he was 2-0 with a 2.84 ERA in his last three starts.Offense has not been a problem for Minnesota through the first half of the year. The Twins are in the middle of the pack in runs scored (18th with 354) and batting average (.258, good for 16th in baseball). Their on-base percentage of .325 ranks 10th in baseball. By comparison, the Twins rank 29th in team ERA (4.86), 28th in quality starts (30) and 28th in WHIP (1.41).It's a long shot that the Twins can come back and make a playoff push given the hole they're in. With that in mind, the second half of the season can still provide several noteworthy storylines for fans.Can catcher Joe Mauer claim his fourth batting title? At the break, the Twins catcher and 2012 All-Star was batting .326, fourth in the American League. Angels rookie sensation Mike Trout leads all AL batters with a .341 average, while Austin Jackson (.332) and Paul Konerko (.329) are still ahead of Mauer at the break. Mauer won batting titles in 2006, 2008 and his MVP season in 2009. If he can stay healthy which he has in 2012, unlike a season ago he should be in the hunt for another batting title at season's end.Can either Trevor Plouffe or Josh Willingham reach the 40 home run mark? The Twins haven't had a 40-homer player since Harmon Killebrew hit 41 in 1970. Both Willingham and Plouffe have 19 homers at the break. Willingham hit a career-high 29 homers last year with Oakland and looks to be well on his way to surpassing that. Plouffe went on a tear last month, hitting homers in four consecutive games and seven homers in a stretch of seven games 11 total in June.Can Justin Morneau continue to make strides in the right direction? Other than one brief stint on the disabled list, Morneau has stayed relatively healthy this season, one year after he dealt with numerous injuries that limited him to just 69 games in 2011. He's nearly surpassed that total at the break, having played in 65 games in the first half of the season. Morneau's offensive numbers still aren't where they once were, though. He's batting just .246 with 38 RBI, 11 homers and 53 strikeouts. The second half of the year will be important for Morneau to show that he can play an entire season he hasn't finished a season healthy since 2008.If the Twins aren't contenders in 2012, it's perhaps time to turn an eye to 2013. Minnesota needs to find out what its roster may look like next spring, and the final 77 games will serve as an audition of sorts for several young players. The next few weeks could also be an audition for players the Twins might deal before the July 31 trade deadline. Among the names rumored as possible trade candidates are been Liriano, center fielder Denard Span and closer Matt Capps. Which, if any, may actually be traded remains to be seen.It's likely that the Twins will be sellers by the end of the month. Then again, baseball can be a crazy sport. The 2009 Twins were seven games out of first place in September and rallied to win the division. Minnesota is now 11 games back and 13 games under .500 but the AL Central appears to be the weakest division in the majors.Crazier things have happened in baseball. Buckle up for the second half of 2012.Follow Tyler Mason on Twitter.
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Dallas Cowboys' team employee bus involved in fatal crash

Aldon Smith posts video under a pseudonym of a blunt on Periscope

WATCH: Cam Newton get blocked by a girl playing volleyball

Russia avoids complete ban from Rio Olympics by the IOC

Report: Padres trying to move Andrew Cashner, Derek Norris

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Baseball's top prospect called up to majors by Astros

Report: Braves 'aggressively' shopping Francoeur, Aybar

Report: Hue Jackson designing plays for Terrelle Pryor

Report: Darnell Dockett expected to announce retirement

Report: Yankees have not discussed releasing A-Rod

Report: D-Backs making Shelby Miller available via trade

Cristiano Ronaldo spars with Conor McGregor in gym

Adam Silver is the new standard-bearer for league commisioners

Iowa football player held at gunpoint by police while playing Pokemon Go

Eight most significant injuries going into NFL training camp

Man. U players banned from playing 'Pokemon Go?'

Ken Griffey Jr. put on backwards hat during HOF speech

Mike Piazza honors 9/11 victims during Hall of Fame speech

Jeremy Lin hints he is racially profiled by arena employees

Why did Rio mayor offer to put kangaroo in Olympic village?

Joe Maddon wastes no time cracking Chris Sale joke

Report: Lamar Odom walked out on family intervention

One Gotta Go: Do NBA players really love NBA2K?

MLB News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

One Gotta Go: Do NBA players really love NBA2K?

Effect of ban on Russia could span beyond the Olympic Games

One Gotta Go: NBA players hate Facebook too

QUIZ: Name every city to host the NBA All-Star Game

One Gotta Go: NBA players settle the fast food beef

One Gotta Go: NBA players make tough choices on their favorite rappers

One Gotta Go: NBA Summer League is not about that Game of Thrones life

The top NHL free agents available as offseason winds down

WATCH: NBA jersey sponsors that need to happen

Expansion draft playing heavy hand in the current NHL offseason

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker